Democratic Convention 2016

Democrats Seem to Want to Forget Obama's Role in Our Surveillance State

It wasn't just one party who set up a system Trump could use to snoop on his enemies.


Leon Panetta
Ray Stubblebine/UPI/Newscom

Anti-war Democrats found their voices again, albeit briefly, when former CIA Director Leon Panetta spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the convention last night. A large pack of delegates (likely Bernie Sanders' supporters) attempted to drown out part of Panetta's speech—which attempted to present Clinton as the choice to take on terrorists—with chants of "No More War."

They were subsequently drowned out by chants of "U.S.A." by other delegates, which made the whole thing a little bit surreal. That President Barack Obama originally defeated Hillary Clinton in part by promising peace as a counter to her hawkishness is now lost. Obama himself mentioned bringing soldiers home from war zones during his speech last night, gliding right past our continued long-term military presence in these countries we were allegedly leaving.

Part of Panetta's aim in his speech was to hit Donald Trump for his comments that he hoped that the Russian hackers who are being blamed for releasing damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee had obtained and would release the missing emails from Clinton's private servers. Panetta told the audience to think about Trump asking a foreign country to engage in hacking against the United States to affect an election.

Without, you know, defending Russian hackers penetrating U.S.-based computers, this feels like the soccer-floppiest of all potential possible responses to Trump and the hacking. The only reason the hacked emails could potentially influence the outcome of the election was because it revealed a dismissive attitude by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) toward Bernie Sanders and his supporters, and that information has most certainly influenced behavior at the convention. But I've already written about the nature of this deflection and how ill-advised it is.

The hack and Trump's reckless response to it (he may or may not be joking, but who can truly say?) has brought up a concern that as president, Trump might have the power to indeed hack the emails and engage in surveillance upon his political enemies. He did say that he "wished" he had the power to access Clinton's hidden emails. And we know with certainty now that the National Security Agency (NSA) does have the technical ability to access and read people's emails, even the emails of American citizens. They say they do not actually do so, and indeed, abandoned an email mass data collection system in 2011 (well into Obama's first term) because they could not figure out the technology to separate "metadata" from the actual content of online communications.

So since this whole hack has brought American cybersurveillance to the forefront, it's worth looking at what the Democratic Party's platform has to say about Internet data privacy and security in 2016:

Democrats will protect our industry, infrastructure, and government from cyberattacks. We will strengthen our cybersecurity, seek to establish global norms in cyberspace, and impose consequences on those who violate the rules. We will do this while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. We will also ensure a coherent strategy across federal agencies by building on the Obama Administration's Cybersecurity National Action Plan, especially the empowerment of a federal Chief Information Security Officer, the modernization of federal information technology, and upgrades to government-wide cybersecurity.

Democrats reject the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe. We need liberty and security, and each makes the other possible. We will protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people—standing firm against the type of warrantless surveillance of American citizens that flourished during the Bush Administration. We support recent reforms to government bulk data collection programs so the government is not collecting and holding millions of files on innocent Americans.

We will support a national commission on digital security and encryption to bring together technology and public safety communities to address the needs of law enforcement, protect the privacy of Americans, assess how innovation might point to new policy approaches, and advance our larger national security and global competitiveness interests.

Emphasis added because, uh, what? So the party's official position on cybersurveillance is to just sort of pretend that the Obama administration was not heavily on board with all of this (until Edward Snowden's leaks prompted the administration to treat privacy concerns at least somewhat seriously) and that the Department of Justice under Obama has not been fighting tooth and nail to keep it out of the courts and to keep the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment from being applied. Yes, it is indeed true that the surveillance system was developed under the Bush administration. But it flourished just fine under Obama. 

To the extent that Trump as president might have the power to snoop on his enemies, many in the Democratic establishment seem perfectly fine with such a power as long as the right people (by which they mean themselves) possess it. If hackers were to get their hands on Trump's tax returns and release them, would these same folks want a greater emphasis on the risks to Trump's cybersecurity rather than the returns' actual contents? Of course not. I wouldn't be surprised if it were used as evidence that Trump doesn't know crap about cybersecurity (likely true) even in the face of the scandal over Clinton's ineptly handled private servers.

NEXT: Gary Johnson: LIVE from the DNC in Philadelphia

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  1. …standing firm against the type of warrantless surveillance of American citizens that flourished during the Bush Administration.

    In their defense, it’s pretty much understood on this that the Obama Administration has been an extension of the Bush Administration on civil liberties.

    1. Well, it’s understood by anyone that actually cares about the subject instead of people who only care when it’s the other guys behind the switch.

      This is one of the most definitive Principals over Principles examples you can make.

      In all fairness, there are apparently 12 million Democrats that actually do care. Sadly, they’re also Bernie supporters. At least he’s a barometer I suppose, and everyone I know that supported him (and I know quite a few) liked him most for his anti-war rhetoric which usually included some mention of Snowden in a positive light. They are not fans of Obama.

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  2. [The NSA says] they could not figure out the technology to separate “metadata” from the actual content of online communications.

    Got a citation, Scott?

    I have trouble believing they’d say this.

    1. There’s a link to it in that very section. It’s from FISA court documents. Not heavily publicized but I blogged about it back then.

      1. In one instance, the government said its violations were caused by “poor management, lack of involvement by compliance officials and lack of internal verification procedures, not by bad faith.” In another case, the NSA said it improperly collected information due to a typographical error.

        Still ain’t seeing the “could not figure out the technology” part.

        1. And this is where your cunt ass pretends he was, quoting them verbatim, making yourself look like an even bigger cunt.

          1. You are mistaken.

            1. You are a cunt.

        2. Well, they didn’t do it. So either they couldn’t or chose not to.

    2. “Got a citation, Scott?”

      People who do this are such cunts. It like you want to call him a liar but you have neither the balls nor the research skills so you go passive aggressive douchbag thinking it’ll make you look less cunty.

      It doesn’t.

      1. Since it’s really impossible to prove a negative, asking someone to provide evidence of their positive assertions is *not* unreasonable.

        1. He didn’t assert anything fuckwit.

          1. You won’t be graduating high school any time soon with that level of piss-poor reading comprehension.

            1. Rage against the Keyboard here doesn’t have time to read the posts he’s ranting about, Colonel.

              1. Hey look who lied about blocking me.

                What a sad fucking thing to lie about.

            2. “You won’t be graduating high school any time soon with that level of piss-poor reading comprehension”

              And yet, I’m exactly correct and you look like an, asshole.

        2. By the way, it’s always fun to watch the idiot sockpuppets defender use his main to defend his stupid fucking socks posts, like you did there .

            1. “Benji” is back, and I think that was a Tulpa sock? Even if I’m wrong, it’s clear that today is some troll’s day.

            1. Go start more sentences with ” to be fair” then proceed to stupidly equivocate on literally everything.

              It doesn’t make you look thoughtful and considerate, it makes you look like a spineless cunt.

              1. To be fair, go fuck yourself.

            2. Forget it, Zeb. It’s Truther Town.

              It’s also a great day for reasonable.

                1. Look its mr can’t do shit!

                  “Forget it, Zeb. It’s Truther Town.

                  It’s also a great day for reasonable.”

                  Funny how quickly you went from “get lost chump” to admitting you can’t do shit about it and slinking away.

          1. The instantly hostile, needlessly petty first-timer calling a regular a sockpuppet? Classic.

            Get lost, chump.

            1. “Get lost, chump”

              Or what?

              Right, nothing.

              Anything else mr can’t do shit about anyting?

              1. And gone.

                Thanks for playing, chump.

                1. “And gone.”

                  Oh my God someone whose opinion I never cared about is now going to pretend they can’t see what I post oh dear whatever will I do about that except laugh at them of course.

            2. The shtick seems familiar. Don’t think it’s its first time at this.

              But to be fair, Da truth is a moronic piece of shit.

    3. Wait, are we provide nsa spying now?

      1. Pro, not provide. Stupid phone.

    4. What do you call a colicky toddler with diaper rash and a keyboard?

      I have no idea, but that’s da truth.

      1. “I forget how it ends, but your mother’s a whore.”

    5. It is, actually, quite easy to separate metadata from content in email. It is quite difficult, however, to distinguish the metadata of US persons’ email from that of others. I have not looked at the relevant documents, to the extent they are available publicly, but think it is almost certain that they describe in some detail the technical difficulties of identifying the actual source of an email message and the nationality and location of its originator and recipient. Any such description would have originated with NSA technical personnel charged with doing that and almost certainly frustrated at the difficulty of the problem and the high inherent error rate. And it is that, along with the FISC push back, that would have induced NSA to drop the program.

  3. They say they do not actually do so, and indeed, abandoned an email mass data collection system in 2011 (well into Obama’s first term) because they could not figure out the technology to separate “metadata” from the actual content of online communications.

    They abandoned it. Because they said they did. Riiiiight.

    1. Well, their word on it is certainly enough for me.
      My eyes may never recover from this eye roll.

    2. they could not figure out the technology to separate “metadata” from the actual content of online communications

      That strikes me as a pretty blatant lie. We have gargantuan amounts of data around here, and we never have this problem.

      1. You can bet it’s all stored and accessible and the program will be revived the instant it passes muster in a FISA court.

      2. I think the United States Federal Government has a few orders of magnitude more data than even an entire Hospital system spanning the United States considering that presumably part of the data within that microcosm would also be contained in the macro. Just saying.

        As for metadata separation, they don’t want to do that in the first place. The whole point of such a system is to be able to read the emails. Just knowing who is talking to whom and where is useful, but they want the whole shebang. Understandably too, it’s an amazingly invaluable tool. It’s just a tool they are specifically not allowed to have under the U.S. Constitution. That doesn’t stop them from wanting it though.

  4. Anyone ever read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? One of the characters in the book uses this device called a “Mood Organ”, I think, that lets them feel emotions on demand, including negative ones. That’s pretty much what th DNC convention reminds me of.

    “I want to feel sad! Tell me about how America is the most racist, sexist, violent place in the world and we should all be ashamed!”

    “Now I want to feel happy! Tell me about how America is the greatest nation on Earth because we can kill people with impunity!”

  5. Panetta told the audience to think about Trump asking a foreign country to engage in hacking against the United States to affect an election.

    I don’t think he told them to hack? I think he asked the Russians to search their backups.

    1. Well, according to the Democrats there is nothing to hack, because the emails were deleted and the server wiped clean. And it shouldn’t matter anyway if they got those emails when she was SecState, because they were just about yoga classes, and baby showers, and shit.

      1. Don’t forget the coffee orders.

        1. Don’t forget the coffee orders.

          Lefties put those first-rate liberal educations to good use one way or another, either as staffer bitches or baristas.

          1. Just choked on my water.

    2. That’s exactly my impression. It isn’t that Russia should hack her, it’s that they already have. Of course, we didn’t do anything when Russia went into the Ukraine so why he would hate Hillary is a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe she encouraged Obama to not be a pussy? Who knows. I certainly don’t care either way, it’s just laughable that anyone can defend the DNC or Hillary Clinton for being strong on data security. They are now both on Record as being terrible at doing their own. Who in their right mind would trust them with anyone elses?

      Sadly, the answer is ‘voting idiots’.

  6. The left hasn’t been anti war since 08. They have given up on civil liberties in almost every area. Selective at best.

    1. Agreed. The idea that there ever was an ‘anti-war Left’ is ludicrous. The Left is anti-war when it can be used as a bludgeon against Republicans. Ironically, cosmotarians at Reason do the exact same thing. I have yet to see an article in Reason about our support for Saudi atrocities in Yemen, not to mention any discussion about the fact that more soldiers have died in Afghanistan since President Obama first assumed office than the entire time during President Bush’s tenure.

      The only real ‘anti-war movement’ is Justin Raimondo and Reason, its cosmotarian cowards, and Leftists are complete phonies when it comes to foreign policy. They are not to be taken seriously.

      1. There is a substantial amount of anti-war on the left, actually. It’s just that the media gatekeepers and the party itself don’t give a shit about anti-war. They’re quite gung ho on it actually, they just don’t want to declare their intentions or actions. They prefer secret, clandestine wars or ‘police actions’ and airstrikes. Robot wars, even.

        What’s unforgivable are the individuals that only protest when it’s a Republican. Those people I ignore since they are clearly partisan fools and useful idiots. I’ll grind them to dust if they want to get into a ‘discussion’ about their values or their politics.

  7. I’m not a Trump fan, but how can these people be so blind to the horror of their candidate? Everything they clutch their pearls that Trump *might* do, Hillary *has been doing* for years.

    Both halves of the duopoly are campaigning for a third party candidate, they just haven’t figured it out yet.

    1. They do it every year. Say what you will about Romney as a squish and an inept candidate, he was easily the most inoffensive milquetoast the GOP has put up this century. Yet the left screamed itself hoarse about the guy like he’s a sociopath.

      1. But he believed such crazy things! Remember when he said that Russia was the greatest geopolitical threat to the US, and the media just laughed and laughed at the idea that he could believe something so patently absurd? What a maroon!

      2. Don’t forget that Romney was the biggest liar in American political history, and his lies about Obama were so extreme that the media was forced to abandon all efforts at neutrality and support Obama.

        1. The truth is never neutral. It must be plied, bent, cajoled, wooed, machined, shimmied, skirted, and lampshaded until it matches the progressive worldview.

    2. Dead on. Its akin to them trying to justify Obama’s actions and policies by stating “Bush did it, too”. IT all comes down to their blind devotion to their party.

  8. Part of Panetta’s aim in his speech was to hit Donald Trump for his comments that he hoped that the Russian hackers who are being blamed for releasing damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee had obtained and would release the missing emails from Clinton’s private servers. Panetta told the audience to think about Trump asking a foreign country to engage in hacking against the United States to affect an election.

    I have no problem with Russians exposing weak computer security or dirty secrets in US elections.

    And if the Russians can get Hillary Clinton’s “private” E-mails, the only way that could affect Hillary negatively is if those E-mails turn out to be not so private.

    So, Russians, please hack away: you’re doing US democracy a favor if you succeed.

  9. Democrats have always been good at forgetting about their involvement in things they want to condemn. Nowadays most of them think of Vietnam as “Nixon’s War” and think Jim Crow laws were passed by Republicans.

    1. Democrats are ahistorical counterfactual-peddling cultural Marxist ninnies.

      1. They’ve always been on the right side of history and social issues. Or so I’ve been told.

      2. If only they were that benign.

  10. It’s also incredibly fucking funny to hear Obama say now that “No one has ever been more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton.”
    Certainly not what he said last go-round.
    I think it’s vastly amusing to watch those two insiders pretend like all is, and thus always was, well between them.

    1. Well, last time he hadn’t run smack into term limits…..

    2. That would be more qualified than George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, for starters, not to mention Franklin Roosevelt and quite a few others, including Bernie Sanders.

      I do not think so.

  11. Trump is so far inside the Dem’s OODA loop that he’s probably getting bored making them dance like monkeys.

    Any sentient human being would realize that the words “email’ and “hacking” are absolutely toxic to Hillary Clinton right now, and would avoid these topics at all costs, rather than building an entire speech around them at her nomination.

    But the Dems just cannot stop themselves from reflexively lashing out at Trump. Anything that you do predictably can be turned against you by a competent opponent. And Trump is just having a field day.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary’s poll numbers are lower a week from now than they were a week ago. A reverse bounce, if you will.

    1. Much as i applaud what boyd did in his career, that ooda nonsense always struck me as just a military version of all the tqm and dfss and harvard business review bullshit.

      1. Reading his biography made me think he must have been a real prick not to make general.

        1. I thought it worked more like:

          he must not have been a real prick not to if he didn’t make general.

  12. “All the spying is good spying but only if it’s my TEAM doing the spying! YAY Team!”

    “All the spying is bad spying but only if it’s not my TEAM doing the spying! Boo Team!”


  13. ‘The hack and Trump’s reckless response to it (he may or may not be joking, but who can truly say?) …’
    ‘Reckless’? Only someone suffering from total humour failure or political bias could think that. The correct word there would be ‘brilliant’ or perhaps ‘trolling’.

    1. No kidding. Always disappointing to see a Reason writer buy into an obviously baseless and brainless DemOp meme.

      And even more disappointing when they expand on it, so that a joke at the expense of Hillary and the Dems becomes an ominous forewarning of Trump . . . doing things that are even less bad than what the administration has done (I’m thinking of the IRS persecution of conservatives, here).

      Speaking of which, there have been developments on that whole Lois Lerner/anti-Tea Party case. Any hope of getting an update from Reason?

  14. The “No more war” chant was thrilling. The reason that Panetta talked about hacking is that the FBI/CIA is trying to foment a “War on hacking” as a new line of business after losing the drug war and war on human trafficking and guns etc etc. Of course that will fail as well – welcome to the panopticon. Of course, you can stick your finger in the dike. Let us know how that works out for you.

    1. No dyke I know would want your fing…oh nevermind!

  15. Time is not linear for democrats.

    Don’t we all want to see Hilary’s private, totally not classified, permanently deleted emails so that we can feel more confident in her judgment?

  16. Anti-war Democrats?

    Man, that’s so Boosh era!

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  19. They should want to forget a lot of things, now and in the past, and most assuredly in the future. Few have more to explain.

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